*Warning: This post contains some grown-up language and might make you angry. In fact, I hope it does. I hope you get so mad at yourself that you take action and start valuing the gifts you’ve been given, who you are, and the purpose for which you’ve been placed on this Earth.*
(Disclaimer: I’m all for helping someone pro-bono if you feel led to do so. I do it often myself. In this post I’m talking about giving in to those who say they can’t afford to pay you anything or just want to “pick your brain” over coffee… not those you feel deep in your heart that you should serve.)
I felt like a really mean person the first time I ever said, “No, I won’t ‘have coffee’ with you” to someone who wanted to meet up to “pick my brain…” especially when she accused me of being selfish for wanting to keep my knowledge to myself and said, “Well now that’s not very nice.” (Her exact words were “that’s not very Christlike” to which I really wanted to respond, “Funny because I’m not Christ” but I digress…)
I answered her with, “It’s interesting you’d say that, as I feel it wouldn’t be very nice of your boss to refuse your paycheck after you did several hours’ worth of work for him, and yet this is exactly what you’re requesting of me.”
She stopped. Stared. Wasn’t sure how to respond or what to say. So I, sick of being asked this same question a dozen times in that month and having the big mouth that I have kept going:
“You really think I came to know what I know for free and therefore I should just give it away to anyone who asks out of the goodness of my heart? Let me enlighten you to some truth. I invest an average of $20,000 per year on my education. This includes hiring coaches, consultants, attending conferences, investing in trainings, and more. And you… you think sooooo much of yourself that you’re entitled to all that money I’ve invested over the years for the price of a cup of coffee? Call me when you’re ready to take yourself, your business, and my expertise seriously.”
That made her really mad. She huffed and puffed, said how she was going to tell everyone about me and make my business super successful (I was already earning almost six figures at the time) and how now she was going to tell people I’m “too hard to work with.” I’d just told her she felt entitled, which no human I’ve ever met will readily admit to being even if they act like it, and that basically she was an ungrateful bitch just wanting to take advantage of me and my “kindness.” OK, so maybe I really did think that. But here’s the thing…
I am SO FREAKING TIRED of people thinking they can pick YOUR brain for FREE. I mean, who do they think they are, to deny your family the right to eat? Because THAT is what it comes down to… they think they’re soooooo worth your time that they expect you to give up your knowledge, your expertise, and your financial investment in yourself just to “help them out,” and that if you “help” them they’ll shout from the rooftops how awesome you are and your business will just blow… up.
SORRY CHARLIE, that’s NOT how this works.
Because no matter how much they say they’ll tell others about you and what you do, they’re literally just trying to find a way to pick your pocket. And the more you let people pick your pocket, the less income YOU will have, which if you really think about it can come down to the food on your family’s table. And do you really think they’re going to follow your guidance and advice if they have no skin in the game? Do you really think they’re going to make progress and see dramatic life change if they’re too lazy to pony up anything to pay you even remotely what you’re worth?
And don’t even get me started on those folks that expect you to do work for them or coach them, then say, “I promise to pay you when some money comes in.”
IT. WILL. NEVER. EVER. EVER. HAPPEN.
Why won’t it happen? First, because you’ll probably feel guilty asking for the money… But primarily…
Because people with this mindset are cheap ass vultures, that’s why! I don’t care how nice and sincere they seem. I don’t care if they don’t come across as a victim at first… if they say “I can’t afford” and then launch into a sob story about “all my bills,” that IS playing the victim. They’re looking for you to give them a handout. If they’re asking to pick your brain or have coffee or whatever just to get your feedback on their situation, business decisions, life, or say they’ll pay you later for a job they want you to do, they are vultures. They’re only out to pick pick pick at you until there’s nothing left of you to give those who do value your time enough to pay for it. And once they’re through with you they’ll find someone else to pick at.
What happens when YOU have nothing left to give because they’ve picked you clean? What happens when you see their name pop up on your screen and you immediately feel that sinking pit in your stomach because you’ve started to resent giving in to them? What happens when you give to them so much they start expecting more and more of your time and you feel obligated to give it, even if you don’t have it left to give?
How can you even help them if the entire time you’re resenting them?
Here’s a little factoid: People will always find the money for something they want. ALWAYS. Just look at the cars they drive. Or the stuff in their house. The phones they use. The jewelry they wear. The extra curricular activities they enroll their kids in. The FACT is if they want it bad enough, they will find a way to pay for it. Always.
Just ask the couple I used to be friends with on Facebook who would post photos of their dinners out at high end restaurants (mostly nice steak houses) every day, then suddenly they posted a plea to their friends to help them pay their electric bill because it was going to be shut off. They somehow found $700/week to eat out for several months on end, but couldn’t find a few hundred dollars to pay their electric bill? I unfriended them as soon as I saw a photo of their baby girl with the text, “Help! We don’t want the lights to turn off for our baby girl.” Next thing you know their sob story worked, their electric bill got paid, and they went right back to posting fancy steak dinners again.
PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS FIND THE MONEY FOR WHAT THEY WANT. They just have to want it bad enough.
Now let’s shift the discussion a bit… WHY are you even considering giving away what you do or your talents for free?
Because YOU haven’t woken up to how much YOU are worth. You see your own gifts as cheap at best, or even worthless. You take your own talents for granted so much that you’re projecting that onto all those people who keep asking to “do coffee” with you… and attracting more of them.
Once you stop looking in the mirror and seeing your SELF as cheap, stop taking your unique talents for granted, and recognize the AWESOMENESS and WORTHINESS staring back at you, you’ll carry yourself differently. People will stop asking you for coffee and start asking how they can work with you. You’ll stop attracting those who just want to pick your brain and start attracting those who ask how they can pay you for your program or service.
This transition is as much about you as it is about your response to them. You will always have a heart to help others. And that’s totally fine. You SHOULD want to help others. It’s even OK to do some pro bono work every now and then. But QUIT acting like a damn CHARITY. You are in business. Unless you’re a registered 501c3, business means for profit. Money isn’t evil and neither is expecting people to pay you what you’re worth. After all, food, clothes and all the basic necessities of life cost money. So when people ask you to work for free, what they’re really asking is for you to run around hungry and naked so they can eat and be clothed.
If what I just wrote doesn’t make you start to think differently, how about a little guilt trip… If you get into a habit of working for free just because you really want to help people, who’s going to feed YOUR kids? How are YOU going to provide for YOUR family? And what happens after you invest all of this time into people and they still don’t take any action on their own, and they stay in the same place they were when you started helping them? Is it helping or is it enabling?
Wake up. Take ownership of your own awesome. Charge what you’re worth. Don’t compromise. Expect potential clients to put some of their own skin in the game. Quit going out for coffee and set boundaries with your conversations. VALUE YOU and what you have to offer enough to charge for it.
Once they have some skin in the game (i.e. pay you actual money), take action, and your service or advice changes their lives, then they will shout from the rooftops how amazing you are. And THEN you’ll have a REAL business and have the ability to make an even bigger difference in your world!
Richard L ParezMay 10, 2019
Wonderful and really informative post. Thanks for sharing with us.
Richard L Parez recently posted…Guidelines for dealerships to use social media
Rashel AhmedApril 20, 2019
Amazing article, Thanks
AndrewNovember 8, 2018
Well there’s really nothing to add because you hit it out of the park Kirsten. Sometimes ya need to be un-“nice” to be good. But then I’m the Nice-Guy-Killer coach so there you are 🙂
Rachel johnstonJune 2, 2018
You are right! A few years ago, I realized people do not respect or value that which is “free!”
I learned this as a self-employed attorney. I do not do “pro bono” work because “pro bono” clients don’t value free legal services; therefore they do not value you or your time. I enjoyed the blog!
Laura Rajsic-LanierMay 27, 2018
Reminds me about a print company I used to work for. They had a manager call me to come in and work all night on an emergency project for them for the same low hourly wage I had been previously been paid before I left. I was nice and said no. Then, he pulled the “Christian duty” card. I was nice and said no again.
Then, I drove down to the company and requested to see the President. I told her I didn’t appreciate his calling and trying to manipulate me into doing it. I didn’t want him ever calling me again and I would never do any work for them on the side due to this individual.
I don’t think it’s just the freebie seekers. It’s also the people who know just enough about you to think they can manipulate you into giving them what they want. There are a lot of “users” unfortunately.
I am learning to stand up for myself and I really appreciate your point of view, Kristen. I love your post.
Will EzellMay 25, 2018
For many years I’ve simply said “call my office” or “let me connect you with my scheduler”, and then let my “scheduler” request Mr. or Ms. MOOCH for their credit card. That’s when they’re advised of my $500 fee.
Of course some object… “I’m his friend…” Our scheduler’s response – “if you’re his friend then certainly you’ll understand the value of the advice he provides. He guarantees $5,000 in results for your $500 investment.”
Tire kickers are just that – tire kickers. People that pay our $500 intro fee almost invariably become clients.
And – “Pick your brain” gives me the worst visual of a bird pecking my head. Not a wise thing to say to me…
Phoebe EzellMay 25, 2018
Bravo! Well said!
Bob duvalMay 25, 2018
Wow Kristen, what a great post! Thank you. Unfortunately we are taught from a very early age to be net takers. Employers pay us just enough to keep us from quitting, while employees work just hard enough to not get fired. Our generation (I’m a boomer) learned that security was more important than contribution to society. We passed that on to our children. I am certainly glad that people like you show up in our lives to wake us up and say “enough.”
DeAnna troupeMay 25, 2018
Yesssss!!!! Kristen, you’d better preach! There’s a select few that I’d gladly meet for coffee because I know they aren’t brain pickers. However, if you’re unproven…Nope.
Judith Anne WintersMay 25, 2018
NO is a sentence.
Kat SturtzMay 24, 2018
Awesome post, Kristen. Wish I’d written it because I agree with every word.
MichelleMay 24, 2018
Wow, wow, wow. This came at just the right time for me. I’m so tired of putting up with interruptions, of always agreeing to see people during the WORKING WEEK, of always being available to anyone and everyone. Thank you for putting it so well.
Sam DuBoisMay 24, 2018
One “ninja” technique proposal, to avoid saying Yes OR No – ask the person, “What is your main question?”
Answer, “I’ll give you some thought about that – please ask me again tomorrow”.
That gives time to think of a question answer – or a question to answer the question – or a task (do this for X days), which could even be written down on a note pad.
BOTH stages (I’ll tell you tomorrow and Here it is) are followed by a rushing off!
A net saving of time, without any reviling or questioning of one’s christliness!
MamaRedMay 24, 2018
Sing it sista!!!!!!!!!!! I have done this and, although getting better about saying no, the way you put it lit a fire under my ass!